Aug 14 2011
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Indian ambassador backs Nitaqat, questions timetable
Ambassador Talmiz Ahmad made the remarks while responding to Saudi Labor Minister Adel Fakeih's Arab News interview on the new employment program.
"As of today the private sector is said to have about eight million employees almost all of whom are foreigners; only 10 percent of Saudis are employed in the private sector. This is not acceptable from any point of view, and the Nitaqat system is aimed at correcting this gross imbalance," Ahmad told Arab News. "The system is based on a combination of coercion and encouragement. Coercion against those entities in the yellow and red zones that are simply unable or unwilling to meet the Saudization quota and encouragement and incentives for those that do participate actively in meeting the requirement."
"Workers who are in red and yellow categories have the option to shift to green and premium category companies -- that means they can leave their employers and go to categories with those companies having green or premium status," the ambassador said. "Even if a company is in red or yellow category and cannot recruit fresh employees the present employees are not removed from the company; they can stay on in the country while their work permit is valid, and during this period seek to obtain employment in the companies that have green or premium status."
The ambassador noted that the biggest problems to increasing the number of Saudis in the labor force were twofold. He said suitability of the young Saudis for new job categories was determined by availability, qualification and experience. He offered some advice to young Saudis seeking career success.
"You should be willing to work in the employment that is offered to you," the ambassador said. "You should be qualified, you should be experienced and you should be willing. Once these three conditions are to be fulfilled, businesses have the opportunity to recruit people."
Ahmad's main concern about the Nitaqat program was the timetable.
"My personal view is that the time frame within which the new rules become applicable is somewhat limited," the ambassador said. "The new program was announced in June, and the penal action is applicable from December. If you take into account the fact that we have a month-and-half of Ramadan and Eid holidays, there is very little time for the companies to make the required adjustments. This is apparent from the reports in your newspaper which state that companies are finding it extremely difficult to recruit Saudis."
He said the Nitaqat mechanisms and regulations were crafted well but cautioned that another ingredient was required for the program to succeed.
"The human element is more important than the mechanism," he said. "Yes, yes, this is a far, far better scheme compared to the one that was initiated in 2002. At that time a blanket quota was announced of 30 percent, and hardly any company reached it. Today it is a much more sophisticated and, as his Excellency has said in the Arab News interview, it is much more dynamic. It takes into account the objective scenario."
The Indian ambassador also wanted to remind Indian workers who may lose their jobs in the coming shakeup that they are likely to find jobs back home.
"Please don't panic. You are not being deprived of your employment abruptly. You must be mentally prepared to return to your country," he said. "Your work abroad is not a lifetime appointment. In any case, a private sector appointment is not a lifetime appointment; it is subject to a large number of norms and rules. You should start looking at opportunities elsewhere. Look homeward -- India is full of opportunities. If your company is unable to accommodate foreigners due to the local laws, don't go around begging for jobs. Put your dignity in your own hands. Pack up your bags, and go to your country and make a useful contribution."
© Arab News 2011
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